The beauty industry is one that is constantly thriving and exploring new outlets towards reaching new victims (I know, this makes it sound like some sort of monster but in a way it is). We’ve all heard about women’s beauty pageants, child and baby beauty pageants and even animal pageants. But up until today I had never heard of men’s beauty pageants. I mean, I had heard of body building contests which are in a way “beauty” pageants because men are working hard to achieve an ideal image and win a prize or medal. I had even heard of the Wodaabe people of Southern Nigeria/North Eastern Cameroon who practice a type of male beauty pageant. The ceremony called Gerewol is a male beauty contest that celebrates the fertility that rain brings to the Sahara. In this ceremony men literally dress to impress the women (they adorn themselves with face paint, eye liner, lipstick, jewellery including beaded necklaces and feathers, and even dance to show their moves) who judge them based on what they see and pick a partner.
However, recently in Venezuela there has been a sudden increase in men’s participation in what we traditionally assume is a women’s-only industry: beauty pageants (that means presenting yourself to an audience and a panel of judges, singing, dancing and even modeling several outfits including swimsuits). What makes this type of beauty pageant different from most men’s beauty pageants is that the men (well, maybe not all of them. We don’t know) are heterosexual and are not cross-dressing. I would be interested to know if the panel of judges are mostly or all female and how popular they are (millions of people around the world tune in to watch Miss Universe, would they do the same for “Mr. Universe”?)
And of course, in the beauty industry come pressures and demands to constantly look your best. Therefore, a lot of these male contestants turn to plastic surgery (nose jobs, chin implants, liposuction, muscle definition, etc.)
I don’t want to say that I’m happy men are also putting themselves through the same things women do, therefore it’s good that everyone is equally suffering. But this just goes to show that women are not the only ones feminists should be concerned about when we talk about the negative outcomes of the beauty industry (eating disorders, cosmetic surgery, mental illnesses from the stress and pressure, etc). Again, I understand that women make up the majority of those affected by the pressures in the beauty industry (anyone who looks at some statistics would know that) but as a feminist I also know that it is my duty not to single out one group of people when talking about these types of issues. If we are ever going to move forward and find some solutions to these issues we have to look at the bigger picture, which most definitely includes men.